Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Silence Can Be Sinful

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, March 30, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible. (Leviticus 5:1)

One of the most difficult things to do is to get involved. It is much easier to sit on the sidelines and watch.  A crime occurs and we are afraid for our own well-being. We say nothing. Over the course of the past few years we have seen the devastating effects of bullying.  It happens in person and it happens on the internet.  We watch politicians as they intimidate each other. We say nothing. Is it because we fear retribution?  Is it because we don't care? 

The sentence from this week's reading explains that we are going to be held accountable for our actions, the transgression we commit and those we omit.  There are those who need us to be their voice; our silence will be our condemnation. Just this year we watched protest after protest.  Some of us said, “They are doing the work therefore I do not need to get involved.”  This week’s reading tells us to do otherwise!       


Benefit of the Doubt

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Sunday, March 26, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

The family that prepared the incense for the Temple services would never let their relatives wear perfume, lest some people suspect them of using Temple incense for their own personal benefit. (Etz Hayim p. 564)

With good reason, we live in cynical times. We wonder about our leaders no matter on which side of the aisle we lean, no matter which religion or denomination we belong.  We are concerned about what they 'really' want to accomplish.  Do they have our best interest in mind or are they beholding to some others? At least, we hope their goals are the same even if their methodology for achieving those goals are different. However, I am not sure of that.

In our lifetimes, unfortunately, or leaders in both the political and religious realms have given us pause to question their motivations and their desired outcomes.  We have seen criminal behavior and we have witnessed questionable moral judgment.  Rightfully, we have become angry and disillusioned and we begin to question anyone who seeks to serve in a leadership position.

The Torah places the responsibility squarely on the leader to be beyond reproach.  If that would only be possibly.  However, the lesson is still relevant. Just because we have been disappointed doesn't mean we should lower our standard.  We must continue to demand that our leadership fulfill their responsibility to serve the common good.           


Lasting Effects

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”  And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made. (Exodus 32:33-35)

One key concept in logic is “post hoc ergo prompter hoc” which means“just because something follows an event doesn’t mean that event caused it.”  We often believe that two events that occur in close proximity with each other have a causal relationship.  But that is not always the case. That is why the Torah makes it clear.  Sin according to our tradition leads to punishment.

Today, we no longer believe that is obvious.  We prefer to believe that our actions have little consequence. Yet, the Torah reminds us that what we do, is a causal act.  Maybe it is obvious or perhaps we don’t even recognize it, but our behavior does affect others.  When we pollute our environment, there are negative outcomes.  When we treat the people in our lives poorly, there are often terrible lasting scars.

The same is true of positive interactions.  This week let’s become more cognizant of the potential impact of our actions.